KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 ― Participants at a forum on hudud last night threatened to withdraw their support for Pakatan Rakyat (PR) should Islamist party PAS go through with its plan to implement the controversial Islamic penal code in Kelantan.
Voicing their concern that the venomous issue will tear the opposition pact apart, the participants urged PAS to focus instead on righting social justice in the country and wresting Putrajaya from ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN).
“For the last seven years we have been fighting to get rid of demons in Putrajaya. Do not for one moment imagine it is because we love PAS.
“You get our vote by default. Continue on the path you’re taking, and be prepared to face peril at the ballot box,” warned political activist Haris Ibrahim, who is linked to the Anything But Umno movement.
The warning was directed towards Sepang MP Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, who represented PAS in the forum.
In the 2013 general elections, PR won 89 seats in the 222-member Dewan Rakyat against BN’s 133. It also won 51 per cent of the popular vote while BN received just under 47 per cent.
Haris’ sentiment was echoed by most who took the mic during the question-and-answer session, and the hundreds who packed the auditorium in the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.
“Is that the most pressing issue? Where Umno is gladly at the back of their mind saying ‘thank you’ for giving a God-sent strategy for them to undermine all your effort?” asked a forum-goer who called himself KK Lam.
“I think it gave rise to a lot of division. Maybe even the split-up of PR itself. Is that what we want to see? “
Lam expressed his reservation over a purportedly divine law, pointing out that judgment falls into the hands of the high priest class.
His opinion echoed Haris’, who said earlier that the creeping Islamisation in the country is slowly sliding into tyranny against the public.
“I am fearful, because once it is implemented there is no turning back,” said celebrated theatre practitioner Anne James, who also attended as a participant.
“I already feel like a second class citizen in a secular Malaysia. What more in an Islamic state.”
Apart from Hanipa, other panelists were civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan, Save Sarawak River’s legal adviser Abun Sui Anyit, and Islamic Renaissance Front’s chairman Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa.
Before the forum started, a coalition of 59 civil society organisations distributed a statement to the audience detailing its stand over hudud.
According to the groups, Malaysia was formed as a secular federation and a hudud law is unconstitutional, therefore should not be dealt with in Parliament merely by a Private Member’s Bill.
The coalition includes All Women’s Action Society (Awam), Aliran, Pusat Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower), Sisters in Islam, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), and Projek Dialog, among others.
In 1993, the PAS state government passed the Kelantan Shariah Criminal Code Enactment (II), allowing it to impose the strict Islamic penal code in the state. But the laws have not been implemented.
PAS is now looking for parliamentary approval to implement hudud. It plans to put forward two private members’ bills in Parliament. One seeks approval for unconventional punishments, some of which are for offences already covered in the Penal Code.The the other seeks to empower Shariah courts to mete out the unconventional punishments.
According to the Shariah Courts (Criminal) Jurisdiction Act 1965, the Islamic court cannot sentence offenders to more than three years in jail or fine them more than RM 5,000. It also cannot sentence offenders to be whipped more than six times.